The Importance of Context

Many times, especially with companies that have never hired a translation service, clients are not entirely clear what a translator may need to generate the expected result, beyond the text itself. On this point, I would like to stress the importance of receiving a reference text or information that will greatly assist the translator to do the job competently.

Sometimes we may get a large document, such as a book, where the context is contained in the document itself. But what is most common is that very few or o references are provided, even for texts that the client deems important. It is not uncommon that a client sends a word document of 500 words, which is usually an excerpt from a larger document or section of a web page or even an amalgam of phrases that do not seem to make any sense.

I understand that sometimes, through ignorance, clients believe that translators are capable of perfectly translating anything they have in front of them. Of course, we translators are able of creating a translation for any document, but context is vital for optimum results. If, for example, we have an Excel spreadsheet with phrases or words such as “Issue”, the translation can vary depending on what it refers to and may be translated (into Spanish) as “Tema”, “Problema” or even “Número” (a magazine, for example). Thus it is difficult or even impossible to determine the correct translation if we have not the faintest idea what that “issue” refers to. Perhaps it is the header of a table on “subjects” of a class; on “problems” that may arise in a situation X; or it is a tab on a website that will be accompanied by a number and leads to a given publication when clicked.

Therefore, it is likely that the translator requests some sort of reference information to provide context from the client. Therefore, good salespeople should realize this fact and ask the client to provide all possible information that can give context to the translator. With this simple act, which will surely not imply a lot of effort from the buyer, saves time and money and gives surprises, such as when the buyer immediately inserts this text wherever it needs to go, and it fits perfectly.
The importance that having context available to provide a quality translation is crucial.

(Versión en español: